Philadelphia Mayor signs law prohibiting pre-employment cannabis drug screening


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Municipal legislation recently signed into law by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will effectively prevent select urban employers from enforcing obligatory drug testing on prospective new employees. 

As per the details of Bill No. 200625, pre-employment drug screening in Philadelphia will no longer be necessary.

Specifically, the legislation “prohibits employers from requiring prospective employees to undergo testing for the presence of [cannabis] as a condition of employment, under certain terms and conditions.” 

However, it should be noted that employees working in various safety-sensitive roles, including police officers and individuals employed in medical and/or child supervisory roles, will not be included in the new policy. 

Moreover, Philadelphians who are required to undergo mandatory drug testing in accordance with federal drug testing guidelines will also be exempt from Bill No. 200625.

Philadelphia’s bill to prohibit employee drug testing will take effect next year

Democratic Mayor Kenney signed the bill into law at the end of April. It will be effectuated on January 1, 2022. Prior to the Mayor’s signing of Philadelphia’s bill to prohibit employee drug testing, the legislation was approved by members of the Philadelphia City Council with a vote of 15 to 1.

“There’s no evidence to support the claim that those who consume cannabis in the privacy of their own home away from the job pose a unique workforce safety threat or risk,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano during a discussion with Council members.

Philadelphia’s bill to prohibit employee drug testing is not dissimilar to laws that have been imposed in various other U.S. cities, including Atlanta, New York, and Washington, DC. Such laws tend to safeguard employees who enjoy using cannabis during out-of-work hours, but don’t want to suffer the consequences of failing a drug test. 

Armentano went on to say that suspicionless cannabis testing in the workplace, including pre-employment drug screening, is not and will never be an evidence-based policy. Instead, he says that the “discriminatory practice is a holdover from the zeitgeist of the 1980s ‘war on drugs.’”

Nonetheless, Armentano – who testified in favor of the measure – claims that things are progressing in the right direction, what with cannabis-related attitudes and laws continuously evolving.

“It is time for workplace policies to adapt to this new reality and to cease punishing employees for activities they engage in during their off-hours that pose no workplace safety threat,” he added.

Study shows no link between past-year cannabis consumption and work-related injury

Previous research has delved into the subject of cannabis consumption and its potential connection with work-related injury.  One such study was published in November of last year in the journal Occupational Medicine.

After investigating a total of 136,000 employees in various occupations, the researchers found “no association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injury” among employees working in any type of role, such as positions that carry a high risk of injury

To the best of our knowledge, this was the largest population-based cross-sectional study examining the association between past-year cannabis use and work-related injuries. We found that workers reporting using cannabis more than once in the past year were no more likely to report having experienced a work-related injury over the same time period in a large cohort of the … working population,” the authors concluded.